In this week’s Parsha, G-d placed Adam in Gan Eden and made everything accessible to him – with one exception: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, you must not eat thereof; for on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Bereshit 2:16-17).
Immediately after the warning to distance himself from the Tree of Knowledge, G-d establishes the institution of marriage as part of Creation. “And Hashem Elokim said, ‘It is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him.” (Bereshit 2:18).
What is the lesson of this juxtaposition?
Furthermore, If G-d did not want Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, why did He put it in Gan Eden? If there needed to be a Tree of Knowledge, it could have been planted somewhere on the other side of the world where it would not tempt man! Had that been the case, Adam could have been given a blank check to eat whatever he wanted from the Garden – no exceptions! What would have been wrong with that?
Rabbi Frand suggests that G-d is teaching humanity a lesson. Every human being must learn that certain things in this world are off-limits. Man needs to confront limitations. Not everything in the world should be accessible. G-d knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted something to be placed within man’s reach that would be “off-limits” precisely so that man would recognize that certain things are “off-limits.”
Humanity needs to recognize that there are moral borders in this world – up until this point and no further! Man cannot have everything he desires. There needs to be something that man cannot have to learn the concept of restraint.
In today’s permissive society, everything is accessible. Whether legal or illegal, moral or immoral, people feel they must have everything. Nothing is off-limits. However, invariably, by having no limits whatsoever, they self-destruct – morally and even physically. When you can say whatever you want to whomever you want and do whatever you want anytime you want, you stop being human.
Milchamot Yehuda suggests that this is why the verse introducing marriage comes immediately following the verse introducing limitations. For a person to live with another human being, each party needs to know the limits. There are some things you can do, and there are some things you cannot do. There are lines that you cannot cross. A person who learns that lesson will have a successful marriage. A person who never knows that and has no borders and no restraints – not in the way he talks, not in the way he acts, and not in the way he eats – will not have a successful marriage.
Only after the concept of limitations was established could the institution of living with another person and the concept of marriage be successfully implemented for man.
Wishing you a safe, healthy and restful Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay